The best book so far about Special Forces in Afghanistan is Robin Moore's Hunt for Bin Laden. It will probably stand for a long time as the definitive book on that campaign.
But the guy on the cover isn't an active-duty Green Beret, nor is he National Guard. He's a "former" Special Forces operator, who goes by the nom de guerre "Jack." On the cover he's striding across the desert, flanked by two mujahideen, the jacket of his desert uniform open, to catch the breeze, checked kafiyah knotted around his neck, AK-47 swinging loosely in his hand. He stares at the camera through the darkest shades. He is one bad motor scooter, and he is one of my dearest friends.
Perhaps I should pause and explain that the expression "former" Green Beret is essentially meaningless. They don't take out your brain, and they don't take out your heart when they let you out of the Army. If you travel this world, looking in all the wrong places, everywhere you go you'll find guys -- maybe toting guns, maybe wielding scalpels, maybe getting it all down on a laptop -- who have an old, faded, dirty, worn, rat-bites-on-the-sweatband green beret in their suitcase, or maybe at home atop a bust of Beethoven on the mantel. They're doing pretty much the same work they always did, without the encumbrance of a military chain of command or the advantage of U.S. supply lines, medevac, air support; they're proud owners of their very own foreign policy.
It would be easy to do a book about the exploits of "ex" Green Berets, most good, some not so good.
But, even in this rarified atmosphere, my man "Jack" stands out. The list of people who hate his guts is long and scary. It includes some other Green Berets, both former and active. It includes the FBI, the CIA, the Department of Justice, Russian intelligence agents, and absolutely everybody, anywhere, who ever tried to cross him.
He's all over Moore's book. No active-duty SF guy gets the number of mentions "Jack" does, primarily because SF works in teams, and Jack was on his own. There he is, mortaring the Taliban, single-handedly breaking up a mob scene (Afghans storming the quarters of international-aid workers), debriding (cutting away traumatized flesh) and stitching gunshot wounds, breaking up a traffic jam in a tunnel through a mountain in the Hindu Kush, which saved about 200 people from freezing to death when night fell.
He swears he was once within hours of encircling Bin Laden, when a CIA drone fired its Hellfire missile at OBL's meeting. That broke up the meeting and Osama got away.
Remember the tapes of Osama's terror school, the tapes Dan Rather broke on CBS? Jack captured them. They showed the usual Arabs going through the confidence course. They also showed a rehearsal for an assassination of "world leaders" on a golf course. It was actually kind of funny, this bogus golf course set up in the middle of the desert, and guys in camouflage Arab dress playing "golf" with sticks, when suddenly their caddies rip AKs out of the golf bags and hose their customers down, then jump in the getaway jalopy, which steams up by prearranged signal and whisks them away.
Not so amusing if they use these skills to break up your game.
On these tapes Osama said flat-out that he was the prime mover in 9/11. Rather interviewed "Jack" and alluded to his "murky" past. "Murky" is a euphemism for four years in the federal pen, framed like a Picasso by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, for a crime he did not commit, and which they knew he did not commit. The FBI agents who helped frame him were KGB moles Earl Edwin Pitts and Robert Philip Hanssen.
I first heard of "Jack" in 1986, when I was editing an adventure mag in New York, a Soldier of Fortune clone called Eagle. Jack was running a school for SWAT and commando tactics. Most of his clients were U.S. government agencies, police agencies, or foreign-government agencies who had been referred to him by the Department of Defense. But he also took private clients and needed publicity. He sent me great color photos of a live-fire reaction course in a swamp, stuff that I could use to illustrate a lot of stories. All he wanted was a credit for his company. Whatta guy!
We didn't actually meet until 1993, when I went to Fayetteville, North Carolina, to produce a television documentary on Special Forces. When I met him he had a beer in his hand and a tracking device on his ankle. He was out on bail.
In 1991 Jack had gone to Lithuania to train their federal police commandos. He has never admitted working for the Department of Defense, but they were aware of the operation and approved it at the highest level. He won the heart of the Lithuanian cops by outshooting their national champion after a formal dinner, which is to say a lot of vodka with some food on the side.
They shot in a basement under police headquarters. It was neck and neck until Jack suggested they fire the last order in total darkness. In that environment he creamed the guy.
They liked and trusted him so much that they let him in on their best case. They had busted some former KGB and GRU (Soviet military intelligence) types smuggling enough fissionable material to make six "suitcase" nukes. That they caught them was the good news. The bad news was that this was the third shipment. Nobody knew where prior shipments had gone, but the leading contenders were Iran, Iraq, and North Korea.
With Lithuanian help he also went to Moscow to talk to friendly elements within what was now the former KGB, the FSK. They confirmed what the Lithuanians had told him. They did this at the risk of their lives, because those complicit in the smuggling went high in the FSK.